Lisa Madigan to file lawsuit seeking court oversight of CPD

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Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking federal court oversight over the Chicago Police Department after Mayor Rahm Emanuel agreed to honor a commitment he made in January, only to retreat from it.

Emanuel is expected to join Madigan at a news conference at the State of Illinois Center.

They will reportedly announce together that they are seeking public input into what a court-enforced consent decree should look like.

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Despite months of resistance to the idea of court oversight–and a court filing just days ago–a top mayoral aide denied that Emanuel was dragged into a consent decree or that Madigan had somehow forced the mayor’s hand.

“The mayor didn’t have a willing partner in the DOJ. To say he didn’t have a choice is wrong. He could have resisted and fought. He’s not doing that,” the Emanuel aide said.

“To say that there is no other choice or that the mayor was forced into this and wrong. She’s not forcing us to do any of this.”

Either way, Emanuel has now agreed to go along with a consent decree he had steadfastly resisted in favor of negotiating a memorandum of agreement with President Donald Trump’s U.S. Justice Department led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Police Board President Lori Lightfoot called Madigan’s lawsuit a “significant development.”

“I have a great deal of respect for the attorney general and her team and I will watch with great interest how the process unfolds from here but I am hopeful for a transparent and inclusive process that, in the end, supports our Police Department and is transformative of the way we do policing in Chicago. This is what’s been needed for some time,” Lightfoot said.

Earlier this year,, lawyers for Black Lives Matter Chicago and other community groups filed a class-action lawsuit seeking federal oversight over the Chicago Police Department.

They accused Emanuel of reneging on his January commitment to negotiate a consent decree and, instead, of attempting to cut a “back-room deal” with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who opposes court oversight over local police departments.

Hours after the lawsuit was filed, Emanuel held a closed-door meeting with Madigan in the mayor’s office on the 5th floor of City Hall.

Madigan was the first to call for a U.S. Justice Department investigation of the Police Department that Emanuel initially called “misguided” after the court-ordered release of the video of white police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald sixteen times.

Madigan’s decision to take the lead on police reform once again racheted up the political pressure on Emanuel.

After the City Hall meeting, Madigan told the Chicago Sun-Times that Emanuel was “scared” of federal court oversight over the Chicago Police Department and the decades of financial pressure that would impose on taxpayers.

“They don’t want a 40-year consent decree a la Shakman or the Cook County Jail. They also don’t want a federal judge taking over the city’s already precarious budget. I don’t blame them. I understand those concerns,” Madigan said then.

“I would counter that … a good consent decree that would include clear reforms, benchmarks, tight timetables and a commitment of resources wouldn’t devolve into a 40-year consent decree where a federal judge was determining what resources need to be allocated. If you do the hard work up-front, you don’t have unexpected problems on the back end.”

In spite of those concerns, Madigan said she came away from her meeting with the mayor convinced that Emanuel was open to the possibility of joining forces with Madigan and other police reform advocates in seeking court oversight, even without the DOJ as a willing partner.

“Is the door open? Yes. I think the door is open. I think they recognize that … reform won’t work if the public doesn’t buy into it. And they’re now seeing growing resistance to the way they’re moving forward,” the attorney general said.

“Do I think they’re aware of that? Yes. Do I think they’re willing to be responsive to that? Yes. Do I know how that’s going to turn out? I do not know. [But] they’re willing to have input.”

Now, Emanuel has agreed to work together with Madigan to seek that public input into a process that has, so far, been closed.

In late June, Lightfoot declared the memorandum of agreement drafted by Emanuel in hopes of avoiding federal court oversight of the Chicago Police Department “fundamentally flawed” and said it would “set the Police Department up for failure.

She was among only a handful of people who have seen and studied the 70-page document that Emanuel has forward to the Justice Department but, so far, has refused to release. It was, Lightfoot said, woefully short on specifics.

Lightfoot’s critique was a significant blow to Emanuel for several reasons.

She co-chaired the mayor’s Task Force on Police Accountability that served as a prelude to the Justice Department’s scathing indictment of the Chicago Police Department.

And she was among the few police reform advocates who were willing to give a memorandum of agreement a chance, particularly after the Sessions-led Justice Department “made it very clear that they view consent decrees as antithetical to their relationship with local police.”

There is no specific list of reforms that must be achieved; no deadlines that must be met; no commitment of personnel and funding and no commitment to change a police contract that , Lightfoot has said, “turns the code of silence into official policy.”

Without those specifics, an independent monitor would be “left to wonder what it is he or she should be auditing.” Nor would there be any way to determine whether the Chicago Police Department was in substantial compliance.

Also, Lightfoot said then, there was “no specific commitment … on an annual basis to provide the department with the tens of millions of dollars it’s going to need to actually accomplish reform. … The Chicago Police Department has a small handful. Without additional financial resources and without additional personnel, there is no way the department will be able to accomplish the necessary work.”

Equally troubling, Lightfoot said, is the fact that the draft memorandum is silent on community oversight and declares that if the independent monitor finds substantial compliance “at any point on any topic, it can never go back and revisit that reform.”


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